Q. How long does it take to complete the online application for retirement benefits?
A. It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. To retire online, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.
Q. My mother receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. She may have to enter a nursing home later this year. How does this affect her SSI benefits?
A. Moving to a nursing home can affect your mother's SSI benefits but it depends on the type of facility. In some cases, the SSI payment may be reduced or stopped. Whenever your mother enters or leaves a nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, skilled nursing facility, or any other kind of institution, you must tell Social Security. Call Social Security's toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). We can answer specific questions and provide free interpreter services from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We also provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day.
Q. My uncle is interested in the Medicare Part D prescription help, but he has about $10,000 in the bank. Would he still be eligible?
A. Based on his resources, yes. However, there are other factors to consider. This year a person's total resources are, in most cases, limited to $13,440 (or $26,860 if married and living with spouse) to qualify for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. Resources include the value of the things he owns, such as real estate (other than the place you live), cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s. There are exceptions. To learn more, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
Gregory Holmes is the district manager for Social Security in Chattanooga.